Borobo Reef

I had planned to have finished the first draft of the next book by the 30th of March. To this end, I pulled out all the stops. I was writing day and night, lunch time, after dinner, before going to bed and even while sleeping.

All that hard work paid off – I did it! Not only did I hit my target, I managed to get it done days earlier than anticipated. That, like, never happens. And it’s got me worried.

Why worry?

You see, getting something done quickly is great, unless it’s done so hastily that stuff goes missing or gets overlooked or gets done sloppily.

I’m not really worried, not like that. It’s more that I’m going to stay on my toes during the second draft, keeping an eye out for anything glaringly obvious.

When’s that due? Glad you asked. 25th of April is the deadline for that. So I’m going at that hammer and tongs, right?
Wrong.

The Cover

Instead of going straight into the second draft, I’m going to let my reading / writing brain have a rest and get cracking on the cover. That’s right, rather than put the cover off until the end, I’m going to use the down time to do some creative drawing.

My Wacom pad has been lonely.

TedrickCombine.jpg

So I started with a sketch of an octopus, the protagonist of my story, a spud named Tedrick Gritswell. After some scruffy sketches, I used the watercolour to get some feel for how he would look, and once that got somewhere close to what I was after, I added a layer and dropped in a background.

Corel Painter has some neat features like layering, lighting and texturing so I mucked about with that so see what I could use. After all, my spud ain’t smooth, he’s got skin. Plus there’s shading to be done and depth of field and all of that.

At the time of writing, I’m still working on the coral cliffs in the background and getting some rocks and shells and other plants in there, along with cleaning up the water and adding some details, but here tis:Tedrick6.jpg

I’ll keep at it for the next few days while I chill out my brain, you know, maybe get out and make a petrol station for Joey like he’s been bugging me. Fresh air and exercise, that’s what I need.

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Huh? Why is he missing an arm? I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait until the book is out to find out.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Thank you… You’re Wacom.

One of my biggest bugbears when it comes to digitizing pencil scratchings is that I have to do my sketching on paper, get my phone out, take a photo – with a black piece of paper underneath to hide the stuff on the other side – then transfer that via bluetooth to my machine, process it through Gimp to get rid of the noise and stuff, despeckle, desaturate and use the threshold command to get the ‘black and white’ levels, mask one over the over to retain the gradient of the pencil or pen, and, finally, use my clumsy mouse for shading and colouring.

Ouch.

I’ve been drawing with a mouse since the old 286, and it’s fine and fair enough for this and that but, really, what I’ve been after is a way to draw / sketch / paint directly into the machine.

Intuous Art by Wacom

There I was, at Officeworks, looking for a present, when I saw this little puppy looking at me with sad eyes:

cth490k_galleryimage_1_600x600_emea.jpgI thought, “Nah. Nahhhhh.”

I did a skip around the store, found the present and was about to leave. I looked back. It was still there. “Take me home,” it said, not forcefully, not appealingly, just sagely.

“Take me home. Use me. I’m what you’ve been looking for.”

I have an old (ooooold) Wacom pen and tablet thing. As a pointing device, it was great. As a drawing tool, no good. Naturally I was skeptical about this one. But times change, technology improves, things get better, kinks get ironed out.

I thought, “OK.”

The rest is history. And, I have to say, it’s awesome. It came with a Corel painting software with which it integrates perfectly. It responds to finger pinching, so I can move the virtual ‘paper’ around, or zoom in and out, without having to leave the pad.

But the really cool thing is that it’s pressure sensitive, so if I want to make light strokes, the corresponding lines are light. Push down and make darker, stronger strokes. The result is a very natural looking stroke for pens and pencils, even watercolours, oils and acrylics.

Blending and shading, as you can imagine, comes out tops. In Gimp, it’s not so great because it doesn’t respect the pressure sensitivity, but pop the picture into Corel and it’s like liquid. I can shade gently, I can shade hard, I can smear this bit, scratch that bit, and even layer it all.

Needless to say, I’m going to be spending some time with this little pooch to make the artwork for Grosvenor Lane Ghost. My pictures will have a lot of chiaroscuro, contrasting light and dark, so I’ll be working on shadows and shines a lot, lanterns, old fireplaces, that sort of thing.

What do you know? I haven’t been excited by technology for a while.

On a side note, I’ve found that this is pretty cool for my little Boy as well: I showed him how to paint with it, how to change the colours and make shapes and things. He’s still getting the hang of it, of course, he hasn’t actually mastered holding a pen properly, but he loves how Daddy can draw him a dragon or a car or a train or a tree or a face or a cat, and he can ‘colour them in’.

Bugger. Can’t stick it on the fridge.Mini Jeztyr Logo